The Celtics hold a 9-2 lead over the Lakers in all-time NBA Finals matchups. Boston won the first eight meetings, starting in 1959, when Bill Russell and Co. began their run of eight consecutive NBA titles by sweeping the Minneapolis Lakers. The 2010 Finals, with the notable exception of Ron Artest and Rasheed Wallace, features the same players and coaches from the epic 2008 series, resulting in Boston's 17th championship.
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The Lakers pushed the Celtics to the brink after Elgin Baylor scored a Finals-record 61 points in Los Angeles' Game 5 victory in Boston. But the Celtics returned the favor with a Game 6 win in L.A., setting up one of the greatest winner-take-all games in NBA history. Game 7 went to overtime, but only after the Lakers' Frank Selvy missed a potential game-winning baseline shot at the end of regulation (the Lakers would contend later that Bob Cousy had fouled Selvy). The Celtics went on to win 110-107 behind Bill Russell's 30 points and Finals-record-tying 40 rebounds, with Bob Cousy memorably dribbling out the clock.
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SI's John Underwood wrote on the eve of the series, ''The Boston Celtics are an old team. Tired blood courses through their varicose veins and they are suspected of having fallen arches, bad backs, itchy scalp and gout." Even so, the Celtics had enough to send 34-year-old Bob Cousy out a winner as the magician of a point guard claimed his sixth title.
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The hard part for the Celtics was getting to the Finals, as they needed John Havlicek's famous steal to put away the 76ers in Game 7 of the East Division championship. With the Lakers' Elgin Baylor sidelined by a knee injury, Boston's average margin of victory in its four Finals wins was 23 points.
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Calling it a "great way to go out," Red Auerbach won his eighth consecutive championship (and ninth overall) in his swan song as Boston coach. Auerbach announced during the series that he would be replaced by Bill Russell, who finished with 25 points and 32 rebounds in the decisive Game 7.
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A year after their eight-year title streak had been snapped, the Celtics were back on top with Bill Russell as player/coach. John Havlicek scored 40 points in the Game 6 clincher as the Celtics denied Jerry West and Elgin Baylor again.
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Another Celtics legend went out a winner: Bill Russell retired as a player after collecting his 11th championship, spoiling a brilliant series by Jerry West, who averaged 37.9 points and became the first (and still only) player from a losing team to be named Finals MVP. In Game 7, the Celtics nearly squandered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead, but, thanks in part to Don Nelson's famous last-minute shot near the free-throw line, held on to win 108-106. The Lakers never did get to use all those balloons stored in the Forum rafters in anticipation of a victory celebration.
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The first Bird-Magic Finals showdown met expectations. There were signature moments and scenes galore, from Gerald Henderson's Game 2 steal to Kevin McHale's Game 4 clothesline of Kurt Rambis to the insufferably steamy Garden in Game 5. In Game 7, the Celtics rode big performances from series MVP Larry Bird, Cedric Maxwell and Dennis Johnson to a 111-102 victory.
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The series started with a more-of-the-same feel as the Celtics whipped the Lakers 148-114 in what became known as the Memorial Day Massacre. But the Lakers bounced back to win Game 2 in Boston, took two of three in Los Angeles (losing Game 4 on Dennis Johnson's buzzer-beating jumper) and finished off the Celtics on their home floor in Game 6 behind Finals MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 29 points. Finally, the Lakers had beaten the Celtics in the Finals after eight consecutive series losses.
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In one of the most memorable moments in Finals history, Magic Johnson won Game 4 with what he called his "junior, junior, junior sky hook. That victory in Boston gave the Lakers a 3-1 lead; they wrapped it up two games later in Los Angeles, where 39-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 32 points and Magic closed with 16 points, 19 assists and eight rebounds. Johnson became the fourth player to win the regular-season and Finals MVP awards.
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Boston eliminated Los Angeles with a 131-92 home rout in Game 6, and Paul Pierce staged a miraculous return from an apparent knee injury for Game 1 at the new Garden. But the defining moment occurred at the Staples Center, as the Celtics rallied from 24 down to win Game 4 -- the largest comeback victory in the Finals since 1981 -- and grab a commanding 3-1 series lead.
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